If it involves pedalling then I'm probably into it…
The Great Manchester Cycle 2013
July 1, 2013Posted by on
It doesn’t sound like a great event on paper: multiple laps of Manchester’s motorway flyover and the busiest A-roads between the cities two football stadiums. BUT, the roads are closed to traffic and there’s thousands of other cyclists doing exactly the same thing. This is the edition running of the Great Manchester Cycle, which is aiming to become the pedalling equivalent of the Manchester 10k run, or even the London marathon. I’m glad Manchester is the first city in the UK to stage such an event and I’m hoping that it becomes as established as it’s running equivalents. There’s options for 52, 26 or 13 mile routes, all cunningly staged at different times of the day to avoid clashes between the lycra nutters and pootling families. It’s this opportunity to do 52 miles flat-out without having to stop at junctions that appeals to me.
I like this event. I did the 52 and the 26 mile routes last year, getting a great speed work out on the first, then enjoying the more relaxed nature of the second with my girlfriend. The main grievance with last year was the ‘technical section’, which involved queuing to get across a footbridge over the ship canal. I’m pleased to report that there was no such bottleneck points this year, though I’m still not convinced by the idea of sending thousands of speeding amateurs around u-turn bends and tight corners in car parks…
Unfortunately I had been suffering bronchitis prior to this years event – which wasn’t ideal – but after raiding the medicine cabinet for various tablets, inhalers and syrups I made it to the British Cycling members start point, which has the advantage of setting off prior to the masses. I didn’t want to go 100% due to my poorly chest and the upcoming Bowland Badass and this made me feel better about failing to stay with the really fast bunch. I then found myself on my own and between groupss for a while, before slotting in with a pack who were riding my kind of tempo, around 21 -25 mph. The brilliant part of this event for me is the experience of riding in a large group and the insight into how the pro peloton works. The swarm of riders is fluid, so one minute you’re cruising along in the middle, marvelling at how little energy you’re using to travel at 25 mph, then you realise that you’ve had a lapse of concentration and you’re now hanging off the back and need to chase to keep in touch. If you were to leave it too long to get back on, you wouldn’t see your group again. Also, when you get to tight corners, if you’re not careful you can lose your position and slip right to the back.
And this is probably why most of the 52 mile riders enter the event – we can pretend we’re pro riders for a few hours. I love professional cycling and this event gives you a little insight into what it’s like to ride in a peloton. (ok, there are obvious differences such as speed, riding skills etc). This dreaming can also create the comical sight of overweight men wearing pro team kit, complete with beer bellies hanging out from under Sky tops and even one hideously distorted version of Mark Cavendish in last years Sky World Champion kit. Despite the lack of physique, having riders in team kit all helps with the internal Phil Liggett style commentary going on in your head!
I coughed my way round in 2h 16m, with an average speed of 22.2mph and was 162nd out of 2800, which I decided was a satisfactory time under the circumstances. Catching up with friends at the end, I realised what a brilliant event this is: great atmosphere, plenty of people cheering you on, slick organisation – I’d definitely recommend it.
With the event moving back to the end of June, it also meant that I could pedal home and watch the Tour de France on telly to see the pro’s showing us how it’s done. At least their kit fits them properly.